Life kind of just took off at the beginning of the year and I haven’t made time to catch up to it thoughtfully so it’s about time that I do. I’ll try not to be long-winded but there is much to catch up on! Bear with me…
In the middle of February I stepped into a position at a non-profit organization based out of Elizabeth, NJ called New York City Relief! The journey of getting there starts in Haiti! Soon after I got there in September of 2016, Hurricane Matthew passed through and Foundation for Peace (my org in Haiti) was desperate to support those who had lost everything in the floods. We put out a plea for anyone and everyone to come immediately and participate in widespread disaster relief. As the body of Christ does, there was mobilization of people and resources from all over the states and one of those volunteers was a young lady named Elysia who came with some of her church members (Liquid) on the first Matthew relief trip at the end of November. Fast forward two years and she is working for NYCR and I’m back in the states listening and praying and waiting for the next big step. Upon hearing that I was looking for a job she reached out and told said I should come and volunteer and check out the organization (of which I hadn’t heard of before) and see what I thought about applying for a position. I thought why not it can’t hurt! To make a very long story not so long, I went on a cold Wednesday in December and worked at the Relief Bus which is a mobile soup kitchen and resource hub for the homeless, and absolutely loved it and the NYCR staff I met. I immediately started the conversation about possibly coming to work with them and God kicked open the door and here I am!
It took a month and a half to finalize everything budget-wise for 2019 as we are a non-profit and rely solely on donor support, but I wasn’t worried. I knew I was going to be working with them before anyone else did. I had this peace that I’d only experienced before while working in Haiti and I knew that God had prepared me for this work for the past two years and before. Besides, in the in-between, I was hanging out with my niece and nephews and helping my mom take care of them so it’s not like I was just sitting and waiting impatiently for God to move.
My position is called an “Outreach Leader” and to simplify what I am doing; I work with volunteer groups who stay at our base in Elizabeth as well as others who come and meet us on location in NYC and help my co-working Outreach Leaders lead the mobile outreaches we have from Wednesday-Saturday. We (volunteers and leaders) make fresh soup and get fresh-baked Portuguese bread each morning to take with us on the bus. We also make hot chocolate in the cold months and fruit punch/lemonade when it’s warm. Along with the food and drink, we also bring socks to the street and offer prayer to each and every person who comes to the bus. Bombas has partnered with us and has donated an amazing amount of the most comfortable socks in existence, which our friends love! But the food/drink and socks are just a tool to get people there.
The deep work is done one on one with an Outreach Leader where we do a deep dive into someone’s life and situation and hardships and pain and pull out hope and dignity and love. As an OL I have the privilege to step into broken and potentially hopeless lives and provide hope through conversation and the connection of emergency resources. We connect people to everything from food stamps and clothing to emergency and long-term shelter to detox to legal help. Not only do we connect them but we advocate for them, using our platform of NYCR being faithful to the streets for the past 30 years. This right here is what I am most excited for; while food and drink is necessary and good, something that we do differently than anyone else serving the homeless in NYCR is that we fight for the least of these. We stand alongside them and cry with them and laugh with them. We restore their hope in God and their situation. Obviously these resources are needed but the true impact is when we can connect or re-connect a soul to God. Spiritual warfare is real and the Enemy wants nothing more than to keep people in depression and hopelessness and darkness. We see it every day we are on the streets… AND WE FIGHT IT.
Everything I am doing is new to me aside from the overarching experience of serving and loving on people in need. There is so much that I have learned already in the month+ I have been with NYCR and so so much that I still need to learn. From a physical standpoint, I don’t know north NJ much less NYC. From a heart standpoint, I need to learn how to listen and assess and love better. But God knows that, it’s why He put me here (among other things)!
Did I ever think I would be an urban missionary in one of the most influential and powerful cities in the world? No. But then again, did I ever think that I would be a missionary in Haiti? Hah.. It’s almost laughable how God has used me in the most obscure (to me) ways and been faithful to spread his love and change lives in the most tangible. I am living proof that grace is given to the worst of sinners. I am living proof that Love is a being and He is alive. It’s still hard to grasp why and how God has placed me where he has but I’ve given up on asking why and how. I just accept that there is nothing that I could do to deserve anything He sees fit to bless me with! My heart is so full. I am amazed.
My 8-week immersive training is almost finished and then I will step fully into my role here at NYCR but this is just the beginning of the best chapter yet. God’s not done with me yet! And until he is I will continue to use the gifts he has given me and this heart he is continuing to break for what breaks his. It’s all a journey. Don’t trust “the process”, trust the Processor.